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February 16, 2024

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Traffic job is immense, tiring

They loom in the darkness; watching, waiting, slowly stalking their prey. When their victims aren’t watching, they attack, grabbing their handheld computers from their belts. Quickly entering the license plate numbers of the vehicles, as well as the cities and countries of registration, they grab the tickets that spit from the devices after printing. Stealthily they strike. They’ve left their calling cards: small, bright orange envelopes under the windshield wipers.

Day in and day out, the University Parking and Traffic officers enforce parking regulations throughout campus parking lots, ticketing unfortunate drivers who choose to park in non-permitted areas. However frustrating it may be for drivers who find that they’ve been ticketed, the officers are just doing their necessary jobs in order to help the University function.

The four full-time officers report to work every morning Monday through Friday in intervals. An officer reports in at 7 a.m., followed by one at 7:30 a.m., 8:00 a.m., and then 11:30 a.m. A part-time officer who checks meters reports at 10:00 a.m. The meters, however, are still checked from 7:00 a.m. until 10:00 a.m. by the other officers. Three student workers also patrol the campus on weekends to enforce fire lanes, handicapped spaces and all other reserved spaces.

The full-time officers split the University into sections from North to South. They each try to make at least two rounds in their area throughout their eight-hour shifts. That in itself is no small task, with over 10,000 on-campus parking spaces to monitor.

Because of the large number of spaces, the officers try to pick the most popular lots where people park unauthorized. They vary their routes daily to keep from becoming predictable. Parking and Traffic officer Patricia Patton takes a unique perspective on the chances of being issued a ticket if someone is parked unauthorized.

“It’s like the lottery,” she said. “Sometimes you win, sometimes you don’t.”

According to Patton, an employee of Parking and Traffic since March of 2000, people parking in the incorrect parking lots are the most common cases she encounters. Most commonly, drivers who park in the wrong parking lots are identifiable by the manner in which they do so.

“They park so poorly sometimes,” Patton said.

Whether they pull in crooked or over the lines, they stick out like sore thumbs.

While performing their duties, parking and traffic officers either ride in the familiar black and navy blue trucks or walk on foot. Frequently, if they enter a parking lot and find someone parked in the wrong place, they will continue on to the opposite end of the parking lot and give that person a chance to move first. However, if the person is still parked there when the officer comes back, he or she will then issue the ticket.

The handheld computer that attaches to the officer’s belt allows the officer to store a vehicle’s information without issuing a ticket. After the information is entered, the computer will then advise whether to issue a ticket according to parking registration records.

Patton advises drivers to take responsibility because it is their choice as to where they decide to park on campus. She also said she encounters a lot of drivers who park in the wrong lot and take down their parking decals, which only makes their situations worse.

“If you take your decal down, you have two tickets, one for being in the wrong lot, and one for not having a pass,” Patton said.

“I’m gonna know one way or another anyways,” she said.

A complaint that the Office of Parking and Traffic frequently hears from drivers is that there are not enough parking spaces on campus. Through August, the Office had issued 3,282 residential student passes and between 5,000 and 6,000 commuter permits, so there is an adequate number of spaces available. The busiest times on campus are Monday through Thursday between 8:30 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. The key to the availability of parking spaces lies in how many events are taking place on campus and how many visitors are on campus.

Stacie Enriquez, the Director of Parking and Traffic, urges drivers to plan accordingly when parking on campus.

“The campus is not set up for driving from class to class,” Enriquez said.

“There are spots to park, but it might not be where you want to park,” she said.

The University offers shuttle service, which Enriquez encouraged students to continue using as an alternative to driving. Meter parking spots also are available for short-term parking as long as the driver pay for the meter.

While enforcing parking policy, dealing with drivers is not always a pleasant experience for parking officers. Patton recalls many different situations where students have responded rudely or with inappropriate finger gestures. Someone has even questioned Patton’s education level after receiving a ticket. Patton, a college graduate, tries to keep things on the light side and not take things too seriously.

“I say hello, and they just walk by without a word, but sometimes they might say hi,” Patton said.

Patton is also amazed by people who don’t read signs. Before parking lots are closed, signs are posted well in advance.

“I tease them all the time,” she said. “I tell them ‘I know you can read. We don’t allow folks here who can’t read.'”

Overall, Patton stressed that parking officers are on campus to help students. They are a resource for students to utilize.

“I’ve had a student where I said ‘Oh you can’t park there’ and they get mad and leave, yet I was going to give them information on the next best place to park.”

Patton recalls especially a time during the winter when she gave a student a ride to his car because he was walking in driving snow with a hat and gloves on. Patton even unfroze the locks on his car and made sure he got his car started.

“I want all students to have a good experience on campus,” she said.

Enriquez admits that the parking officers are not perfect.

“Our officers make mistakes sometimes. We admit that,” she said.

In those cases, parking ticket appeals can be made through the Undergraduate Student Government, a process completely separate from the Office of Parking and Traffic.

On average, about 40,000 tickets are issued in a full year, including summer. Approximately half of those tickets are for expired meters. All tickets are eligible to be appealed.

There’s something to learn from everyone here at the University, according to Patton.

“I tell people everybody on this campus is an educator, whether you cut the grass or teach in a classroom,” Patton said.

For more information on parking regulations on campus, visit bgsu.edu and click on the Parking and Traffic link.

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